#53 - Bava Batra 128-134
Just in Time
For thousands of years Jews have been praying for and impatiently looking forward to the geula shleima (the ultimate redemption). When it will take place is the ultimate mystery.
I, Hashem, shall speed it up in its set time. (Yeshayahu 60:22)
The prophets announcement of timing appears to be self-contradictory. Rashis explanation is that if Jews prove worthy Hashem will speed up their ultimate redemption; otherwise it will come only at the time set for it.
Although this passage relates to a national deliverance it is applied in our gemara by the Sage Rava to an individual one. A case came before Rabbi Ilish concerning the laws of inheritance. Rava happened to be present when Rabbi Ilish deliberated the issue and was prepared to issue a ruling which Rava found unacceptable. When he realized that he had erred in his judgment Rabbi Ilish felt deeply embarrassed. He was afraid that Rava was thinking that he was totally unreliable for ruling on halachic matters and that only the unexpected intervention of the superior sage had prevented him from making a mistaken judgment.
Rava, of course, had complete confidence in Rabbi Ilish and viewed the incident in another light. He interpreted Hashems promise of speeding up redemption to the deliverance He provides for the righteous the moment they are in need of it. With this thought he comforted Rabbi Ilish, assuring him that he had never made a mistaken judgment. The proof was that even in the present situation when he was on the verge of making an error, Hashem placed Rava next to him to rescue him from issuing a mistaken judgment.
Bava Batra 133b
Joy and Fire
The Sage Hillel the Elder had eighty disciples. The greatest of them was Rabbi Yonatan ben Uziel and the least of them Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai.
After listing the almost indescribably vast Torah and mystical knowledge of Rabbi Yochanan the gemara reaches the obvious conclusion: If the least of these disciples was so great, how great must the greatest of them have been!
Rather than elaborate on Rabbi Yonatans breadth of knowledge, the gemara simply relates that when he was involved in the study of Torah any bird flying over him would be consumed by fire.
Rashis explanation (in Mesechta Succah 28a) is that the Heavenly angels gathered about Rabbi Yonatan to hear his words of Torah, and it was their fiery presence which caused the birds to be consumed.
The Torahs description of Mount Sinai when the Torah was given by Hashem to the Jewish People forms the background for an alternative interpretation presented by Tosafot.
And Mount Sinai was completely enveloped in smoke because Hashem descended upon it in fire. (Shmot 19:18)
When Rabbi Yonatan studied Torah he succeeded in reliving the joy which his ancestors experienced at Sinai, a joy which kindles the Heavenly fire which accompanied the giving of the Torah. It was this fire which consumed the birds that flew by.
To support this approach Tosafot cites the Midrash (quoted by Tosafot in Mesechta Chaggigah 15a from the Jerusalem Talmud) about Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yehoshua. These two sages were invited to the brit of the son of Avuyoh, one of the leading Jews of Jerusalem, along with all the important people of the city. But they were seated in one house, apart from the others guests in another house. While the other guests celebrated in their way with eating, drinking, singing and dancing, these sages celebrated by studying Torah. Their host saw flames descending from Heaven to encircle the house they were in and became frightened of a conflagration. To his frantic challenge Did you come to burn my house down? they replied that he had nothing to fear since this was no ordinary fire but a reenactment of the Heavenly fire of Sinai which was sparked by the joy of their Torah study with which they relived the joy of the Giving of the Torah. (It must be noted that such a fire, while dangerous to passing birds, does not harm humans or destroy their property.)
Bava Batra 134a